A new property web portal where housing benefit claimants and landlords can liaise is now live.
Dssmove will perform the same function for social tenants that sites such as Zoopla do for private tenants.
Both private and social landlords are rightly expecting to see an increase in the level of rent arrears once Universal Credit is introduced. And some social housing providers are expecting as much as an unsustainable 30% rise in arrears.
These are worrying times and there are still many grey areas in the proposed welfare reforms that government needs to address.
It appears many landlords who currently receive housing benefit directly are sitting tight, awaiting further answers before strategically planning their way forward.
However, innovative and forward thinking landlords who are unwilling to procrastinate are already working and planning ahead to offset the impact of reform.
Thanks to the introduction of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in 2008, the private rented sector is ahead of the game. Many private landlords have partnered with credit unions, developing relationships that will help create solutions to ensure housing benefit is paid to landlords.
The groundwork undertaken by the private rented sector will be the basis for enhanced payment solutions that forward thinking credit unions will offer to an increasing number of tenants and landlords once Universal Credit is introduced.
For those tenants who struggle to manage their finances generally, and pay their rent, these payment solutions will undoubtedly help reduce arrears.
Given the rushed timescale the Government has set itself to introduce Universal Credit, I would urge landlords to be more proactive and not wait for the problem of rent arrears to arise.
Landlords could for example, encourage tenants to open a credit union account well before Universal Credit is introduced. This will help smooth the payment transition, and avoid any last minute rush that could see large numbers of tenants clamouring to open a credit union account as a viable payment mechanism for their rent.
Landlords must be more selective too, and procure tenancies only after having done all the necessary checks. Those that spend that extra time and effort upfront are better positioned to spot and weed out potential tenants who are likely to falter with their rent payments.
Many private landlords have embraced ‘lifestyle referencing’ and increasingly use such methods to create a community to share information and protect themselves from rent arrears and bad tenants.
LHA has also given proactive private landlords over four years' invaluable experience developing systems and procedures for collecting rent payments direct from tenants in receipt of housing benefit.
This experience has proved invaluable in preparing for Universal Credit and is something that social housing providers can only be envious of today.
I believe private landlords remain better positioned and prepared for the introduction of Universal Credit than social housing providers who can learn from the private rented sector as the new welfare reforms loom.
Online property portal Dssmove has now launched and is specifically for people on housing benefit looking for a place to live.